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How is Columbus Day still a fucking holiday: The resiliency of White Supremacy in West Michigan

October 8, 2018

“As Native American peoples in this red quarter of Mother Earth, we have no reason to celebrate an invasion that caused the demise of so many of our people, and is still causing destruction today.”

Suzan Shown Harjo – Creek & Cheyenne

Just last week, the City of Cincinnati passed a resolution to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on what is known on the calendar as Columbus Day. This kind of action has been taking place in several cities across the country in recent years, as Native communities and their allies have raised the issue and accurately called out Columbus Day as an ongoing manifestation of White Supremacy. Challenging the legitimacy of Columbus Day is an important anti-racist act, but it must be seen in the larger context of challenging White Supremacy.

It is increasingly imperative that we come to terms with the function that Columbus played in the European conquest/colonization of the what we now call the Americas. Columbus was commissioned by the Spanish Crown and sanctioned by Catholic Church (through a 1493 Papal Bull) to conquer new lands and extract resources  to benefit Spain. Therefore, Columbus not only is the primary symbol of the 500 years of genocide and slavery that has plague the western hemisphere, he is the symbol of political, religious, social and cultural imperialism that continues to the present by a White Supremacist system of Capitalism.

I don’t want to spend much time further exploring these historical dynamics, as I want to get to what it is that White people should be doing confront the legacy of Columbus Day. However, there are a few resources that I would highly recommend for people who want to investigate this history. (See Resources listed at the end of this article.)

Undoing part of White Supremacy: A Proposed Agenda

The list that follows includes not only some clear principles of Racial Justice, but are directed specifically towards White people who inhabit what we refer to as Michigan or as Indigenous people often say, Anishinaabe territory that is currently occupied by the State of Michigan. These are proposed actions and are meant to create discussion, while ultimately leading to concrete action for those of us who have White privilege. While these actions might not seem urgent in the face of recent US politics and with the upcoming election in November, it is critical that we come to terms with the fact that the land we stand on, the land we occupy, was stolen from Native people. In addition to coming to terms with this reality, this admission should inform how we organize for something more than just getting the right leaders elected, because at the end of the day, whoever is elected will still ignore and dismiss the fact that we are currently on stolen land.

Grand Rapids was founded on Settler Colonialism – As a foundational framework, it is vital that we come to terms with the fact that Grand Rapids, like virtually all US cities, were founded on what Native scholar Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz calls Settler Colonialism. Settler Colonialism in West Michigan is the result of a larger White Supremacist strategy that included legal means (treaties), forced relocation, spiritual violence (role of churches) and cultural imperialism, most radically seen with the policy of putting Native children in boarding schools with the goal of, “Killing the Indian, Saving the Man.” 

Get the City of Grand Rapids to denounce Columbus Day – For those of us who claimed to be against White Supremacy and want to engage in acts of racial justice, here is a concrete action to organize around. The fact that the City of Grand Rapids still recognizes Columbus Day means they support the White Supremacist narrative of Settler Colonialism and what was done/is being done to Native people in this area. We need to organize to end Columbus Day in Grand Rapids. If the Native community wants them to rename October 12 Indigenous People’s Day, we should support that, but that is a decision for Native people to make.

Resist Economic Policies that Negatively Impact Native People – Over the next several days there will be Columbus Day sales, which would be equivalent to Himmler Day sales in Germany. This is low hanging fruit, but we should not shop at stores having Columbus Day sales, we should be protesting them. More importantly we need to find out how larger economic policies, particularly extractivist policies impact Native communities. The extraction of oil and gas worldwide disproportionately impacts Native people, which is why Native communities are at the forefront of campaigns to resist projects like the Alberta Tars Sands and all the pipelines connected to such projects. Groups like Idol No More and the Indigenous Environmental Network are groups that we need to be in solidarity with by providing whatever support they are asking for. Nuclear energy should also be resisted, since uranium mining in the US happens on or adjacent to Native land. (see If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans)

Demand that Land be Given Back to Native Nations – As the map here illustrates, the amount of land that was inhabited by Native people before the European Conquest was massive. The US government and State governments have violated virtually all treaties signed with Native Nations (remember, treaties can only be signed between nations) and one of the major aspects of the Native Sovereignty Movement in the US is to reclaim some of the land taken in the process of Settler Colonialism. What this would look like in West Michigan is for Native people to decide, but those of us who claim to support racial justice must make this a priority. Land is justice.

End Native Cultural Appropriation – We have to stop appropriating Native culture and Native spirituality in all its forms. White people are notorious for appropriating Native traditions and making them their own and this has to STOP. Whether we are talking about sports mascots, sweat lodges or any other Native cultural and spiritual traditions, we have to stop appropriating them and challenge other people from doing the same.

Accomplices Not Allies – Lastly, I would highly recommend that people read, Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing The Ally Industrial Complex. This article/zine is reflective of the important and uncomfortable work that White people need to do if we are to take seriously our role in dismantling White Supremacy.

While this list is short it provides White people with a lot of opportunities to practice racial justice and confront White Supremacy. This has to be our work. In the same way that men have to make the end of rape culture a priority, White people have to make the end of White Supremacy a priority. Let’s get to it.

Some Resources:

The Canary Effect (film) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD7x6jryoSA

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz

All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life, by Winona LaDuke

The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book, by Gord Hill

Custer Died for Your Sins, by Vine Deloria Jr.

A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, by Ward Churchill

http://www.idlenomore.ca/

http://www.ienearth.org/

http://nativenewsonline.net/

GRPD threatened to arrest members of Movimiento Cosecha for chanting near the ArtPrize closing ceremony event

October 6, 2018

Last night, Movimiento Cosecha began its 5-day pilgrimage from Grand Rapids to Lansing, to demand drivers licenses for all.

This campaign not only highlights another repressive component of state violence – not allowing immigrants to obtain a drivers license – it demonstrates the resiliency and commitment of a movement led by immigrants.

An estimated 50 people gathered at Fountain Street Church last night, in order to share food and get last minutes instructions on 5-day pilgrimage, which would end in Lansing on October 9th for a state wide rally at the Capitol building.

However, before beginning the pilgrimage, Movimiento Cosecha organizers decided to hold a press conference by the statue at Rosa Parks Circle. The participants walked from Foundation Street Church to Rosa Parks circle and along the way they were met by cops with the GRPD.

This has been a pattern that Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE have seen in the past 18 months since they began organizing around immigrant justice, ICE violence and demanding an end to Kent County’s contract with ICE. Police have been intimidating, harassing and attempting to prevent participants in this movement from engaging the public through a variety of tactics. Within the last few weeks, we have seen an even larger police presence, most notably at the People Commission Action on September 13, an anti-ICE action that took place during the opening ceremony of ArtPrize on September 19th,  and the NoBusinessWithICE action on October 1st

This is what DeVos money buys in Grand Rapids

It was discovered a few days ago, that ArtPrize was further restricting what people could have on their person while coming to the closing ceremony in Rosa Parks Circle, displaying these signs at the entrance to a completed closed and policed event.

So, when the Drivers Licenses for All pilgrimage decided to walk by the Rosa Parks Circle, in order to get to the statue of Rosa Parks for their press conference, it was clear that the police were going to try to prevent them from disrupting the ArtPrize festivities.

There were no less than 50 members of the GRPD present around or near Rosa Parks circle – on foot, in cruisers, on bicycle, on horseback and using segways. This was on top of the ArtPrize security personnel, which were place at all of the entrances to Rosa Parks circle, which was completely closed off aside from one main entrance on the east side of the park. There was fencing place around the entire park and they police presence was so extreme, you would have thought they were trying to protect the Arc of the Covenant. (the pictures are grainy, since it was dark and raining, but you can get a sense of where the cops were stationed around the perimeter of Rosa Parks Circle)

Allies with Movimiento Cosecha who were providing crows safety were met by a line of cops, near the southeast entrance to Rosa Parks Circle. When they asked to speak to someone who was in charge the cops present called for one of the captains to come over. The crowd safety personnel were told that people walking with Movimiento Cosecha could got through the park, as long as they didn’t use bullhorns or making any noise that would disrupt the ArtPrize event.

Movimiento Cosecha participants walked through and when they got to the area of the northwest corner of the Art Museum, they began chanting and handing out flyers about the drivers license campaign. The cops were extremely agitated and told some of the crowd safety personnel that they would start arresting people if the chanting didn’t stop. However, those walking were continuously moving and eventually made it to the statue of Rosa Parks.

Once they arrived at the statue, they used a technique, which was made popular during the Occupy Movement, the People’s Mic. The People’s Mic is where someone says a sentence and then the entire crowd repeats it back, thus amplifying what was being said. The police did not stop this from happening and the press conference continued.

As is with all Movimiento Cosecha actions, the press conference was conducted in Spanish and English. There were no major news agencies present, but there were at least two Spanish-language entities there, filming the entire event, along with someone from the Rapidian.

Once the press conference was over, the pilgrimage officially began. Participants walked up Monroe Center, passing the ArtPrize event and chanting along the way. Once they arrived at Fulton St., they stayed on Fulton Street the entire time until they reached the destination of their first stop along the pilgrimage. The police followed the pilgrimage at least until Lafayette Street, making sure that the Movimiento Cosecha participants were not going to come back and further disrupt the ArtPrize event.

You can follow the progress of the pilgrimage to Lansing, by checking the Movimiento Cosecha GR Facebook page, where there will be regular posts throughout the next several days.

One Legacy of Sheriff Larry Stelma – Profiting from Separating Immigrant Families

October 4, 2018

It was announced a few months ago that Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma was retiring.

The announcement of his retirement came in the midst of the campaign led by Moviemiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapids Response to ICE to end the county’s contract with ICE.

In an article announcing his retirement, Stelma said that the campaign to end the contract with ICE had nothing to do with his decision to retire. While it is up for debate whether or not the campaign to end the ICE contract had anything to do with his decision to retire, it certainly is part of the legacy that Sheriff Stelma will leave behind.

Larry Stelma served as Sheriff during a time of jail expansion, which means that he presided over an increase in Kent County’s role in the Prison Industrial Complex and Mass Incarceration. Thousands of people who have come through the Kent County Jail were there for non-violent offenses, which speaks to the county’s failure to provide adequate alternatives for people who did not need to go to jail.

In 2012, Sheriff Stelma agreed to a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a contract that saw an increase in arrests, detentions and deportation during the Obama administration and the subsequent Trump administration. 

In 2017, Kent County signed an extension of the ICE contract, a contract which provided financial incentives for the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Stelma signed onto a letter from the National Sheriff’s Association in March of 2018, which is more of an ideological statement about immigration. Part of that letter reads: 

Congress must act to pass legislation to secure our borders through enforcing immigration laws, tightening border security, support the replacement and upgrades to current barriers and fencing and construction of barriers along the U.S. and Mexico international boundary as requested by those areas where it is needed, suspending and/or monitoring the issuance of visas to any place where adequate vetting cannot occur, end criminal cooperation and shelter in cities, counties, and states, and have zero tolerance and increased repercussions for criminal aliens. I stand firm with my fellow Sheriffs throughout our nation to have our borders secured first, in full cooperation and support of our promise and mission to uphold and enforce our nation’s laws, and we expect nothing less from Congress.

This ideological commitment to criminalize immigrants became evident as soon as the End the Contract with ICE campaign began in late June of this year. In late July, after organizers from the End the Contract campaign went to Kent County Commission Chair Jim Saalfeld’s home, Stelma had these words to say:

“Trying to intimidate anyone just isn’t the American way.”

We responded with an article headlined, Kent County Sheriff Stelma is either stupid or in denial about intimidation being un-American. 

The Sheriff’s Department, under Larry Stelma’s leadership, has continued to hold firm on their position that they will not end the County’s contract with ICE, despite the growing opposition to the contract and numerous meetings that organizers have had with county officials.

As Sheriff Larry Stelma is set to retire by the end of October, it is important to point out that he leaves a legacy of separating immigrant families in Kent County and endorsing

a contract with ICE, which allowed the jail to profit from family separation. I, for one, am not sorry to see him go.

Neoliberal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: What the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce really practices

October 4, 2018

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce endorsement of Republican candidate for Governor Bill Schuette continues to generate plenty of controversy, particularly because of his stance over LGBT issues.

We wrote an article a few weeks ago in response to the backlash against the Chamber’s endorsement, which asked why did the endorsement of Schuette generate such controversy, when the Chamber of Commerce has a history of endorsing candidates that embrace a political vision that is part of the larger neoliberal economic platform, which disproportionately impacts communities of color, the working poor, queer and immigrant communities. 

There have been some businesses and organizations that have withdrawn their membership, but most have remained, which provides a perfect opportunity to examine the GR Chamber’s politics, especially since they are hosting their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit today in Grand Rapids

As social movements continue to challenge systems of power around racial, economic and LGBT justice, the business community has grappled with how to win social capital with these movements and not abandon their primary goal of representing the capitalist class.

The history of the US Chamber of Commerce and all of its chapters around the country has been a history that exclusively focuses on how the most powerful members of the business community can ban together to further their political agenda and expand their wealth. Lets be honest about the fact that even though a business of any size can be part of the Chamber of Commerce, the larger businesses and corporations are what driver Chamber policy. This is the case with the national US Chamber of Commerce and it is the case with the Grand Rapids Chamber. Just look at who sits on the Board of Directors and you can see who is making the decisions about the direction of this entity.  Many of the people and businesses represented on the GR Chamber board are also part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure

So, why does an entity that represents the interests of the capitalist class hold Diversity, Equity and Inclusion summits?

First, as mentioned earlier, there is a tremendous amount of social capital to be gain by embracing diversity, equity and inclusion. Having more people of color, women or members of the LGBT community as part of the business community is a buffer against accusations that the business class are racist, sexist and homophobic. However, there are significant limitations to businesses that adopt diversity, equity and inclusion language and policies, specifically if they are adopted as a form of identity politics. Businesses love having more diversity in the board room or on their staff as long as those people buy into what Crystal Fleming, author of How to be Less Stupid About Race, identifies as neoliberal inclusion. For Fleming, neoliberal inclusion is a form of tokenism that does not address larger systems of oppression like White Supremacy, Patriarchy, Homophobia and Capitalism.

Longtime educator and organizer Elizabeth Martinez says that using the word racism is problematic, since it does not name the system of racial power that exists, which is White Supremacy. Martinez’s definition of White Supremacy is: 

White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

Contrast this definition of White Supremacy with the what the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce does, which according to their own mission is to be a champion for West Michigan business. This means that the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce primary focus and work is to look out for the interests of the business community. Some might say this is self evident, but the point here is that because this is their focus they will use whatever means they can to support that mission, even if it means to host a diversity, equity and inclusion summit.

In fact, such a strategy is smart on their part. If you can get people who have been the most marginalized by White Supremacy, Patriarchy, Homophobia to feel included in the GR Chamber, then you have won a great deal of social capital that not only diverts attention away from the primary mission  – more profits and more political influence for the capitalist class – it allows people to not have to think about the harm being done to the most marginalized in this society.

Lets be real, this form of tokenism is widely practiced and embraced by non-profits all over the country. Take for instance the Human Rights Campaign, which puts out an annual Corporate Equality Report, rating corporations that have positive policies towards the LGBTQ community. In their 2018 report they list corporations like Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Amazon as having great ratings. These are all companies that exploit their workforce and fight against labor unions. These are corporations that pillage the earth and destroy indigenous lands all across the globe. However, in the world of diversity, equity and inclusion you can exploit and pillage as long as you have LGBT-friendly policies. 

This is exactly the kind of logic that the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce embraces. The GR Chamber has OutPro, because it wins them social capital, but it simply means that those who identify as LGBT can also be part of the capitalist class and exploit and pillage as well as straight people. This is exactly why Crystal Fleming names this as Neoliberal Inclusion, because the capitalist class is more than happy to have people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ community as long as they embrace the neoliberal economic model.

Any organization that cares about social justice issues and fights against systems of oppression would not only end their membership in the Chamber of Commerce, they would see them clearly as an organization inherently in opposition to social movements that fight for collective liberation.

How People in Power see Social Movements: A Kent County Administrator and the End the Contract with ICE campaign narrative

October 3, 2018

It is always instructive to see how those who hold positions of power view the world.

When talking about historical events, those in power prefer to highlight the “official history” of what took place. “Official history” is the view of history from those in power often seen as the historical winners. This view of history serves those in power and attempts to minimize the role that social movements played throughout history. For example, those in power like to say that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, when in fact the abolition of slavery was done almost exclusively by African Americans who rioted against their slave masters, burned the plantation houses, sometimes killed the master, fled the plantation, sought refugee in the underground railroad or fled the country.

In this example we are led to believe that a politician freed those in slavery, using legal and acceptable means of achieving a goal. Those who actually freed themselves and were assisted by other former slaves or allies, used whatever means necessary to engage in what historian David Roediger calls, self-emancipatory tactics. It is true that Lincoln did present the Emancipation Proclamation, but this was merely a law that supplanted a previous law which made it ok for white people to enslave black people.

A recent example of how those in power view history, can be seen in an interview on WKTV (Public Access TV) with Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt, which you can view here below. 

There are several things worth pointing out about what Britt said, which I want to address.

First, early on in the interview he talks about how the Kent County Jail’s contract with  ICE, “ensures that any detainees are treated properly and fairly.” This is a smart play on words by Britt, but it is misleading, since aren’t all people who are being held in the Kent County Jail treated properly and fairly? In other words, why try to make a distinction? Britt makes this statement up front as a way of putting viewers at easy about detainees, without having to actually address the real harm that ICE does to the immigrant community.

Second, Britt makes the claim that the Sheriff’s Department can’t say no the ICE, because it is a federal law. This is simply not true. One, there are numerous communities across the country that are making the decision to end their contracts with ICE or passing resolutions that will prevent said communities from using any resources that would support or aid ICE to do harm against the immigrant community. Two, Britt’s statement also ignores plenty of historical examples of local governments defying federal laws, especially those used to oppress groups of people.

Third, the Kent County Administrator says that after 72 hours people could be released and that the county wants to make sure that citizen’s rights are protected. Again, he uses language that is deceptive. More importantly, Britt uses the phrase citizen’s rights, which based on the actual reason that the federal government is using ICE to target people in the immigrant community, is because of their status as undocumented. The federal government and ICE do not see immigrants who are undocumented as citizens, which is exactly why they are being targeted by ICE.

Fourth, when talking about the organized effort to get the county’s contract with ICE terminated, Britt uses the good protestor/bad protestor argument. He says there are times that they (protestors) have done a good job during public comment and then there are times that they (protestors) have disrupted and interrupted the County Commission meetings. This good protestor/bad protestor statement is meant to reflect his view (someone in power) views as acceptable tactics and unacceptable tactics.

Fifth, Britt gives his view of the campaign to end the contract, which began in late June of 2018. Britt refers to the People’s Commission Meeting, which was held in September, but pretty much ignores all the other examples since June 28th. Britt also states that, “we don’t want to remove people from the room or arrest people.” However that is exactly what they have done on a few occasions, along with engaging in other tactics to deter public participation – putting up barriers and signs in the commission chambers, sending cops out to intimidate people before they come to the meeting, not allowing people to bring their backpacks into the meeting, etc.

Sixth, the County Administrator says, “it’s odd to me that people would not take the road to working with state and federal legislators.” One, this ignores and dismisses that work that many people in this community have done to change state and federal law on immigration policy. Two, it ignores the fact that many people are still working on changing state and federal policy. Three, it also ignores the rich history of people working to confront local governments as one strategy to change state and federal policy. Confronting local government on policies that are imposed by the federal government is a large part of the Civil Rights Movement, but it has also been a tactic in the environmental justice, anti-war and anti-apartheid movements, just to name a few.

Seventh, towards the end of the interview Britt states, “I’m as concerned as they are…..but ending the contract is not something we can do.”  One, there is no evidence that they are as concerned as those confronting them about the ICE contract. Britt then engages in mansplaining, as if people don’t know what the issue is all about.

Lastly, the County Administrator says we need to resolve this through discourse, by listening and if we want to resolve the issue those protesting need to do so with federal legislators. These final comments by Britt again re-affirms his belief that the County can do nothing about it, plus he places value on discourse, which is just a convenient way of saying that this is a tactic that is respectable. The fact is that members of Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE have had numerous conversations with county officials, commissioners and the Sheriff’s Department, but there has be no willingness on the part of the county to end the contract. If they are unwilling to end the contract, then what is the point of discourse.

As a contrast, WKTV did interview two members of Movimiento Cosecha GR, an interview we are posting here below.

Grand Rapids participates in the national No Business With ICE Action Day

October 2, 2018

Last night, some 25 people participated in the national No Business With ICE Action Day, here in Grand Rapids. Cities across the country participated in the action to draw attention to the many corporations and businesses that have contracts with ICE, and to demand that they end their contracts with an agency that does tremendous harm to the immigrant community.

The target in Grand Rapids was the Edmark Development Company. Edmark, which now owns the Waters Center building, leases space to the Department of Homeland Security/ICE at 161 Ottawa NW. However, you wouldn’t know this, since there is no information listed at their online directory or the directory in the building’s lobby.

Movimiento Cosecha GR and the GR Rapid Response to ICE group were handing out flyers with information about Edmark, along with ways for people to contact them to demand that they end their lease with the Department of Homeland Security/ICE. The number to call for Edmark is 616.575.6051. There is also an online petition that people can sign.

However, before going to the Waters Center, people gathered at Calder Plaza, where they were met by 12 – 15 cops from the GRPD. The cops told the group that if they went into the Waters Center building and disrupted people there for entertainment (the Waters Center is an ArtPrize venue), they would be arrested.

It was a cold and raining night in Grand Rapids, which meant there wasn’t much foot traffic, so the action moved from the Waters Building and decided to go to Rosa Parks Circle to see if there were more people that they could share the flyer with.

Upon arriving at Rosa Parks Circle the group stood in front of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, specifically where channel 8 has their ArtPrize studio, holding up banners and signs and chanting. After about 5 minutes, the GRPD (which followed them down) told people they had to move off the brown colored bricks onto the grey colored bricks or they would be arrested.

The group then went down to the arena district and continued to hand out flyers and to chant about ICE, Edmark and the cops, since the cops kept following the group the entire way. The action ended at the ArtPrize office on Sheldon & Weston, where flyers were left for ArtPrize staff.

Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE also wrote up a statement, which was delivered to the Edmark Development Company office. It is a powerful statement, which we will re-post here:

To: Edmark Development Company

161 Ottawa NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49508

From:  Movimiento Cosecha GR

GR Rapid Response to ICE

Concerned citizens

Date: October 1, 2018, A National Day of #NoBusinessWithICE

We demand that you cancel your contract with ICE and stop renting office space to the Department of Homeland Security.

Why?

  1. It’s morally wrong to be complicit with ICE. ICE abuses immigrants and children.

There’s evidence that there have been over 33,000 complaints filed against ICE over the last 7 years, alleging a wide range of abuses in immigration detention. Those included sexual abuse. There are cases in which complying with a demand could get an immigrant released -but they could be deported to the wrong country if they didn’t.  

The ACLU has obtained over 30,000 pages of documented abuses of immigrant children in ICE custody. ICE officers have:

  • Punched a child’s head three times, kicked a child in the ribs
  • Used a stun gun on a boy, causing him to fall to the ground, shaking, with his eyes rolling back in his head
  • Subjected a 16-year-old girl to a search that ended in a sexual assault which was too graphic to describe here.
  • They’ve done many other things – calling children dogs, threatening them with sexual assault by other inmates, running over a teen with a patrol vehicle, refusing to let children stand up for days, and more.  

This is the organization that you are allowing in your building.

  1. ICE separates families and hurts our community.

In 2016, the number of undocumented immigrants in Kent County was over 13,000.  The undocumented share of the immigrant population was over 26%.

This means that most immigrant families and many non-immigrant families here have loved ones who are under-documented, and the fear of their detention and deportation affects all areas of their lives. The fear of losing a loved one. Of losing a family member.  Of losing the income they need to live.

Even when they are not abused by ICE like in the examples above, children are traumatized and do poorly in school when a parent is taken. Mental and physical health, productivity, and quality of life all suffer greatly when a family is separated.

Yet it is estimated that immigrants contribute $3.3 billion a year to Kent County’s economy. Immigrants are our valued neighbors, working, living, learning, and playing alongside of us in our day-to-day lives. We must stand with them.

  1. We must make it so that ICE cannot do their violence in our city.

Businesses all over the country have stopped doing business with ICE. Virgin Airlines won’t use their flights to deport people anymore. Several local municipalities have canceled their contracts with ICE and ordered ICE detainees to be released. By making it difficult for ICE to work in our city, we can help to stop the violence and keep families together.  

Stop renting to ICE. Support the immigrant community.

 

Betsy DeVos Watch: Freedom, Free Speech on Campus and the National Constitution Center

October 1, 2018

A few weeks ago, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at an event organized by the National Constitution Center for their annual Constitution Day.

The speech that DeVos gave in September, was instructive on many levels. A primary theme of the Secretary of Education’s speech centered around freedom and freedom of speech. In many ways, Secretary DeVos was chastising both students and campus administrators of limiting ideas and information. Such a claim seems rather laughable coming from a person who justifies her family’s contribution of millions of dollars during election cycles as “free speech.”

Another point that DeVos addressed was the issue of civility. Civility is a topic and theme that more and more campuses are pushing, especially since there are more and more students and community members who are challenging what they would identify as hate speech.

A good example of hate speech is the student-led protests that have confronted the white supremacist leader Richard Spencer. More and more student groups or community groups that are marginalized – black, latino, immigrant or queer communities – are protesting, interrupting or even trying to prevent those who promote white supremacy, homophobia, closed borders and privatizing education, as a few examples.

These are examples that are in sharpe contrast to the examples that Betsy DeVos does provide. One example, DeVos gives states:

An official student activities board at the College of William & Mary, a public campus in Virginia, recently hosted a director of the American Civil Liberties Union for a discussion on free speech. Almost as soon as the event got underway, students rushed the stage and began to shout down the ACLU representative, an organization typically allied with many of the same causes shared by those who were shouting. The event never resumed.

What DeVos failed to mention is that those protesting the event were members of a Black Lives Matter chapter that were specifically challenging the ACLU’s defense of people like Richard Spencer and other white supremacists to have a public forum to spew their hate. This protest was held in October of 2017, so the BLM protest was drawing attention to the ACLU’s defense of the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A second example that Betsy DeVos gave in her speech was about U of M students bringing Alveda King to campus and then being charged by the university to provide security. DeVos also mentioned that she was the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. What DeVos failed to mention in her speech was that Alveda King was invited to campus, since she was an anti-abortion activist and was invited by an anti-abortion student group. When other students found out that King would be speaking about her anti-abortion views, the university decided that security would be needed and then charged the group that brought King to campus.

One last example that DeVos mentions was the joint statement that Princeton’s Robby George and Harvard’s Cornel West issued on freedom of thought. While Cornel West issued such a statement, DeVos again failed to mention that Dr. West was part of the counter-demonstration in Charlottesville attempting to shut down the white supremacy march.

Betsy DeVos also stated that the country has “abandoned truth.” Yes, a person who grew up in a wealthy family that was part of the religious right and married into an even wealthier family that is part of the religious right movement that seeks to impose its values on the rest of society, had the audacity to tell students that people have abandoned truth.